Last year The Horror Channel premiered Simon Rumley’s stunning piece of award-winning cinema, The Living And The Dead and this month they are giving his equally astonishing and controversial movie Red White And Blue its UK TV premiere on Oct 20 at 10.55pm
Set in Austin, Texas, this dark love story follows the disaffected and promiscuous Erica (Amanda Fuller – Buffy The Vampire Slayer) as she sleeps with a series of nameless men, until she is befriended by Nate (Noah Taylor – Submarine, The Proposition), an ex-Iraq war veteran with a sociopathic streak. Nate, seems interested in Erica for more than just sex – but when one of her previous partners, hard-rocking mamma’s boy Franki (Marc Senter) resurfaces, Erica’s actions come back to haunt her, leading to a terrifying climax which has shocked audiences worldwide.
Rumley talks about his deeply shocking yet tenderly moving film, what it was like shooting the movie in America and why distributors are confounded by his work.
Red White and Blue is very different to your film The Living And The Dead, where did the idea come from?
Simon Rumley: It came from a mixture of personal fears, reading about crazy events on the internet, wanting to do another horror film that wasn’t obviously classifiable as a horror film and also wanting to make a film that was, like The Living And The Dead, equally tragic and disturbing…
Why set it in America?
Simon Rumley: I’d been wanting to shoot a film for a long time in America and it seemed like the perfect setting for the film. Some films can work well in different countries but some are very country specific and I felt this wouldn’t work in the same way in the UK as it would in America. There’s a filmic classicism to neon lights and wide open spaces and the flipside of the American Dream which, naturally, we don’t get in the UK.
What was it like shooting in Austin, Texas?
Simon Rumley: Fantastic. Austin is such an excellent city and the people are so friendly and welcoming and laid back and cool in the best possible sense of the word. One of the reasons we went to Austin was because my friend Tim League and his wife Karrie, lived there. They own a bunch of cinemas called the Alama Drafthouse and pretty much know everyone there is to know so I knew if we ever got into trouble or needed help they’d be able to help us.
As well as filming in peoples’ houses and diners and bars, we also had a ton of local extras and our whole crew apart from the DP and editor were locals. It was a tough shoot and they really stepped up to the challenge really well.
It’s a raw and very gritty piece, set very much in the real world. Would you agree this is where horror works best?
Simon Rumley: Absolutely – escapist horror can be fun at times but for me, if I don’t believe the situation and the characterization then usually I’m not emotionally affected which means I’m not scared and/or I’m not disturbed. Certainly for me, most my favourite horror films are based in a believable reality whether it be Freaks or The Omen.
The cast is outstanding, Amanda Fuller as Erica and Noah Tyler as Nate bring a brutal and heartbreaking honesty to their roles. Did you write the parts with these actors in mind?
Simon Rumley: No; I’d never heard of Amanda before we cast her in the film but when I saw her audition and then met her, it did feel like the part had been written for her. Once I’d written the script and we started casting, Noah was my first choice for Nate. Although most people are bowled over by his performance, they’re also slightly dumbfounded by the initial casting of him as such a character. I’ve been a massive fan ever since I saw him in his debut feature The Year My Voice Broke and although he’s never played anyone so dark, I always felt he had a quirkiness and a darkness that hadn’t been previously explored.
The characters are very “damaged” in different ways and you don’t pull away from showing the audience how much. Do you censor yourself at all as you create a script?
Simon Rumley: Good question! I generally don’t censor myself but after Red White And Blue and my two anthology features I’ve done in the last few years (Little Deaths and The ABC’s Of Death) I’m now making a deliberate effort to work on scripts which aren’t as ‘tough’ because although they go down well with the audiences, most the film industry, that being sales agents and distributors, are usually confounded by my films because they’re so uncompromising. I’m now writing scripts which are still very much my ideas but which are more ‘identifiable’ as product that can be bought or sold; sadly, what directors make is and always will be seen as a commodity by many.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
Simon Rumley: It was actually pretty great. Everyone was really friendly and did their job really well. Initially people were a bit sceptical that we’d get everything shot in time but when we started picking up the pace, everyone loved it and had no time to do much apart from concentrate. Both the producer and I agreed it was the most harmonious set we’d worked on.
There’s quite a twist to the story, was this to give it an extra layer, a moral in fact?
Simon Rumley: Yep, absolutely – if it’s the ending you’re talking about – the very last shot in fact. I thought that justified Nate’s actions even more and made the whole thing even more tragic; personally I thought it was a pretty devastating ending although I’m not sure what everyone else thought!
Red White And Blue is getting its UK TV premiere on the Horror Channel, how do you feel about that?
Simon Rumley: Very excited. The Horror Channel used to be a bit goofy but nowadays it has the best selection of both contemporary and older horror of any channel in the UK so it’s a must for any self-respecting horror fan.
What’s your honest opinion of horror cinema at the moment, is it in good health?
Simon Rumley: I think there’s more interesting and unique horror directors around now than there have been in a long time and all you have to do is look at the ABCs Of Death to view the breadth of what’s on offer. That said, I think much horror is still stuck repeating older formulae as well working on remakes and sequels. Even though there haven’t been many fantastic horror films in the last few years, I still think it’s a very exciting time generally for the genre.
So what projects are you working on at the moment?
Simon Rumley: Well, as discussed, I’ve just finished The ABCs Of Death which premiered at the Toronto film festival. Beyond that I have a few projects which seem close to happening and a few which I’m still developing…
Simon Rumley, thank you very much.
Simon Rumley: Thank you!
Red White And Blue premieres on the Horror Channel Oct 20 at 10.55pm